Republished on Tuesday 24th September 2019: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of October's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
With no competition and an unexciting elevator pitch [Poor pun intended – Ed], we were ready to pinch hit on MLB The Show 19 until next year’s instalment. Long-time fans of this franchise will know not to sleep on developer Sony San Diego, though, as the studio tends to throw acclaimed curveballs on an annual basis. And while this year’s edition may not have many buzzwords to pull punters in, there’s no doubt that it plays a great game of ball.
For our money, this is the best sports series on console right now, and the under-the-hood improvements make the latest iteration the best it’s ever been. The most notable overhaul has been applied to the fielding, with thousands of animations added to make defensive play more robust than ever before. Unlike in previous entries, it now genuinely feels great cutting off a ball batted into the ground, and then firing it into first base for an easy out.
This rounds out the full on-field experience, as minor physics adjustments mean that the pitching and batting gameplay is as tight as usual. Various control options and difficulty settings mean that anyone can enjoy the core loop, and whether you’re a veteran at the plate or a total baseball beginner, you can wring some entertainment from the action. The commentary is starting to feel a little tired now, but the overall presentation is sublime – the tiny visual flourishes really set the franchise apart.
Which brings us to the spectrum of modes available. Road to the Show – the series’ trademark role-playing campaign, which sees you work your way up from the minor leagues to the big-time – once again returns, this time with a new dialogue system that allows you to develop your player’s personality. Depending upon the decisions you make, you’ll unlock perks which influence how your star will perform in clutch situations, which is a nice touch.
There are also new minigames that you can complete during the course of the season, and while some of these feel like they belong on an old Flash website like Newgrounds, they add some variety we suppose. One neat touch is how you can now build a rapport with your teammates and rivalries with your opponents, adding to the locker room dynamic and leading to meaningful outcomes as you work your way towards the business end of the season.
It’s the new mode March to October that really stands out, though. This truncated take on an admittedly lengthy season allows you to take control of any of the 30 iconic MLB franchises, overseeing key moments in their pursuit of World Series glory. Tasks range from pitching a perfect ninth inning through to coming from behind in the top of the eighth, and each time you succeed you’ll carry momentum into simulated matches which will maintain your streak.
The idea is that, rather than playing the full season, you’re taking charge of pivotal events, with new sideline reporter Heidi Watney providing context on how your team’s been faring while you’ve been away from the plate. It’s a really well-executed mode that suits MLB’s gigantic 162 game season perfectly, and with further iteration we can see this evolving into something special over the course of the next couple of seasons. We wouldn’t be surprised to see other games “borrow” the format, too.
Successfully completing a March to October season will reward you with themed Diamond Dynasty items depending on the difficulty, and MLB The Show 19’s card collecting remains as addictive as ever. The series’ inspired twist on RISK returns yet again, with new maps to conquer and even more rewards than ever before, while Programs give you in-game objectives to aim for in reward for more cards, cosmetics, and collectible items.
Perhaps the biggest addition is Moments, though, which allows you to either replicate or reverse the course of history by playing key games in baseball lore. Not only does this allow the title to showcase some of its new legendary players, but it also operates as a kind of history lesson, with archived footage really adding to the storylines of icons like Babe Ruth. There’s even a black-and-white filter, although retro stadiums would really add to the atmosphere of these challenges.
Elsewhere in Diamond Dynasty, the traditional online play feels sturdy, although server drop-outs can make committing to a nine inning game a little dicey. We’d still like to see a few more quick play options incorporated for time-strapped players, as it can be a bit daunting pledging your time to a full-length match – even if online players have a tendency to swing for every pitch, curtailing games with fly balls and copious strikeouts.
Perhaps the only disappointment, then, will come for fans of Franchise mode, which has largely been untouched this time out. While it remains as comprehensive as ever, the only real underlying improvement has been applied to contract and financial structuring, which is unlikely to particularly appeal to anyone but the most hardcore of players. There’s also no online option, which has been a point of contention for a couple of seasons already.
MLB The Show 19 doesn’t appear all that enticing on paper, but step up to the plate and its gameplay is still pretty much unparalleled. The significant improvements to fielding mean that the series now excels in every discipline, while additions like March to October provide an entertaining way to play in short bursts. Diamond Dynasty is arguably the best card collecting game on the PS4, and despite some dry commentary, the overall presentation is borderline obsessive with its sheer attention to detail. The biggest disappointment comes in the lack of meaningful additions to Franchise mode, but this is still a feature rich option even if it has been left largely untouched. Simply put, Sony San Diego’s hit yet another homerun.
Its at times like this that sammy wishes baseball was more popular in the uk
I haven't played a baseball game since VR Baseball on the PS1. Maybe I should give this a go cuz I do like a good sports game.
@roe On that note, I don't really understand why San Diego hasn't made The Show VR yet.
It certainly looks good, but unfortunately with my lack of time and my lack of baseball knowledge it’ll have to be a pass from me. Great game to have though if you’re into baseball.
If only the rest of the world understood baseball. Which begs the question, why doesn't EA have competition with FIFA. I don't get how the contract between FIFA and EA for the licences is, but if there was anything more believable would be Sony buying a FIFA licence rather than that Take-Two story.
@get2sammyb at least home run derby! And there is that....who made that? It reviewed alright if i remember. Just light on content for 19.99.
@Nyne11Tyme Yeah, that's made by the same people who do the RBI Baseball games, which I believe is some kind of internal team at the MLB itself.
And you're right, it's decent. I'm kinda surprised Sony hasn't tasked The Show team with coming up with something a bit more fleshed out for PSVR, though. It wouldn't necessarily need to compete with the main game — perhaps a more "arcadey" alternative, for example.
@TheArt I think EA has exclusive access to the FIFA and NFL licenses. There was some kind of loophole with MLB where Sony is a console manufacturer so they allowed them to have it along with 2K Sports. But obviously The Show destroyed the MLB 2K games both critically and commercially so 2K Sports just gave up.
They always deliver a great game, glad the same happened with MLB The Show 19.
@get2sammyb And that exclusive rights thing... I still don't get. Can't some billionaire somewhere or maybe Sony, Microsoft, just go buy a shared licence and hand it over to Konami or some promising football developer... I think it's FIFA that don't get the games business and EA keeps manipulating them. Still EA's FIFA isn't a bad game though, all I want is equal rights.
Just like every year it's a great game. I stick to mostly franchise mode. Sure, it hasn't changed much, but what more could they really add to that? It's already one of, maybe the, best franchise mode in any sports game.
Is that a beard or is that guy part Wookiee?
Pretty cool. I'll definitely get the first PS5 iteration; that'll have been 6-7 years since I last bought the Show.
Just a note to those put off by the more sim like version of this sport...
Super Mega baseball 2 is a decent arcadey alternative, albeit unlicensed in any way...
I will be picking this up though, love me a baseball game... And being in the UK its price drops pretty quickly too...
I want to admire and like MLB The Show, and I'd be interested in buying it, if only for the fact that baseball is so incredibly dull. I just can't get into it at all. Shame, because it looks great.
@Heavyarms55 Well these baseball players sure do love to chew bacca.
"MLB The Show 19 - Sony's Flagship Sports Series Keeps Getting Better"
MLB The Show 19 - 8/10
MLB The Show 18 - 9/10
Sounds like it got worse, if we're comparing scores.
@lacerz It's a year later, though.
I'm just ribbing ya. I bought MLB 17 during a sale. I'm not big into the sports games. I think the last one I bought at full price was NHL 92 on the Genesis.
@get2sammyb MLB 18 has just gone on sale on the EU psn for about £12.99. Would you still recomend that version?
@ApostateMage insert "I understood that reference" meme here
I was not going to buy this game until I read your review. After reading your review I went out and bought it and I am very pleased. Thanks for a great review!
Genuinely really excited to play this as part of October's PS Plus line up. Lets go Blue Jays 💪
Going to give this a go on plus. Any idea if there are many quick play options as I'll never have time to invest fully in the game
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